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Langlois v. Pacheco

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 19, 2017

CHAD LANGLOIS, Plaintiff,
v.
MANUEL PACHECO, THOMAS HODGSON, GLEN TABER, NICHOLAS DRINKWINE, and as of yet unidentified EMPLOYEES OF THE BRISTOL COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS

          Dennis Saylor IV United States District Judge.

         This is a § 1983 civil rights action arising out of an attack against plaintiff Chad Langlois, then an inmate at the Bristol County House of Corrections, by his cellmate, Manuel Pacheco. The complaint alleges that the Sheriff of Bristol County, Thomas Hodgson, and two corrections officers, Nicholas Drinkwine and Glen Taber, acted with deliberate indifference and disregard of Langlois's health and safety. Specifically, the complaint alleges that defendants failed to protect Langlois from imminent attack and harm, and that Hodgson failed to train and supervise his employees. The complaint also alleges claims against an unknown number of unidentified employees of the Bristol County Sheriff's Department as defendants, although it contains no specific allegation as to any such employee.

         Defendants Hodgson, Drinkwine, and Taber have moved to dismiss the claims against them pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In the alternative, they have moved for a more definitive statement under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e) as to whether plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The unidentified employees have also moved to dismiss the claims against them pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss of Hodgson, Drinkwine, and Taber will be granted in part and denied in part, and their motion for a more definitive statement will be denied. The motion to dismiss of the unidentified employees will be granted.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         Unless otherwise noted, the facts are set forth as alleged in the complaint.

         At all relevant times, Chad Langlois was an inmate at the Bristol County House of Corrections. (Compl. ¶ 7). It appears that he is no longer incarcerated, and that he was not incarcerated at the time that he filed this action.[1]

         Thomas Hodgson is the Sheriff of Bristol County. Glen Taber and Nicholas Drinkwine were correctional officers at the Bristol County House of Corrections. (Id. at ¶¶ 3-5). The complaint alleges Hodgson and his agents assigned Pacheco to the same room as Langlois, despite Pacheco's history of assaultive behavior. (Id. at ¶ 10).

         According to the complaint, before the assault, Langlois repeatedly reported to Hodgson, Taber, and Drinkwine, orally and in writing, that Pacheco had a weapon and was plotting to harm him. (Id. at ¶¶ 11, 12). The complaint alleges that defendants failed to take appropriate action, neither moving Pacheco or Langlois to a different cell nor searching Pacheco or his cell for a weapon. (Id. at ¶ 13).

         On October 21, 2013, Pacheco attacked Langlois while he was asleep, stabbing him repeatedly. (Id. at ¶ 14). Langlois was taken to Saint Luke's Hospital in New Bedford. As a result of the attack, he suffered numerous lacerations and blood loss, followed by scarring, headaches, loss of sleep, emotional distress, blurred vision, and trauma. (Id. at ¶ 15). Following the assault, Pacheco was prosecuted by the Bristol County District Attorney for assault with intent to murder and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon. (Id. at ¶¶ 17, 18).

         B. Procedural Background

         Langlois filed the present action on October 21, 2016. (Docket No. 1).[2] The complaint asserts six counts: (1) deliberate indifference to an inmate's health or safety in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment (as to Hodgson, Taber, and Drinkwine); (2) reckless and intentional endangerment (as to Hodgson, Taber, and Drinkwine); (3) failure to train and supervise (as to defendant Hodgson); (4) battery (as to Pacheco); (5) deliberate indifference to inmate safety, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment (it is unclear whether this claim is asserted against Hodgson only or Hodgson, Taber, and Drinkwine); and (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress (as to all defendants). (Compl. ¶¶ 19-57).

         On February 8, 2017, defendants Hodgson, Taber, and Drinkwine moved to dismiss the claims against them or, in the alternative, for a more definite statement concerning exhaustion under the PLRA. (Docket No. 7). On March 10, 2017, the unidentified employees filed a motion to dismiss the claims against them. (Docket No. 12).[3]

         II. The Motion for a More Definite Statement

         Defendants Hodgson, Taber, and Drinkwine have moved for a more definite statement under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e) as to plaintiff's exhaustion of administrative remedies under the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. For the reasons below, plaintiff is not subject to the PLRA and therefore a more definite statement as to that issue is unnecessary.

         A motion for a more definite statement is granted only “[i]f a pleading to which a responsive pleading is permitted is so vague or ambiguous that a party cannot reasonably be required to frame a responsive pleading.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e). “Rule 12(e) motions are disfavored ‘in light of the availability of pretrial discovery procedures.'” Vizcaino v. Isaac, 2016 WL 1163652, at *3 (D. Mass. Feb. 2, 2016) (quoting Cox v. Marine Mar. Acad., 122 F.R.D. 115, 116 (D. Me. 1988)). “The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ‘employ notice pleading, and, for this reason, motions for a more definite statement are not favored.'” Id. (quoting Delta Educ., Inc. v. Langlois, 719 F.Supp. 42, 50 (D.N.H. 1989)).

         The PLRA requires prisoners to exhaust all available administrative remedies before filing suit under § 1983 or any other federal law. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). To satisfy the exhaustion requirement, “prisoners must ‘complete the administrative review process in accordance with the applicable procedural rules, '. . .-rules that are defined not by the PLRA, but by the prison grievance process itself.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007) (quoting Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 88 (2006)). Failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense under the PLRA, and inmates are not required to specially plead or demonstrate exhaustion in their complaints. Id. at 216.

         The PLRA applies only to those who file an action while they are “prisoners, ” as that term is defined in the PLRA. Greig v. Goord, 169 F.3d 165, 167 (2d Cir. 1999) (“Litigants . . . who file prison condition actions after release from confinement are no longer ‘prisoners' for purposes of § 1997e(a) and, therefore, need not satisfy the exhaustion requirements of this provision”). The PLRA defines “prisoner” as “any person incarcerated or detained in any facility who is accused of, convicted of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms and conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(h). See Page v. Torrey, 201 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2000) (“[O]nly individuals who, at the time they seek to file their civil actions, are detained as a result of being accused of, convicted of, or sentenced for criminal offenses are ‘prisoners' within the definition of 42 U.S.C. § 1997e . . . .”).

         It appears that Langlois was released from incarceration in 2014. He filed the current action on October 21, 2016. (Docket No. 1).[4] Thus, at the time the complaint was filed, Langlois was not a prisoner and he is therefore not subject to the restrictions of the PLRA. See Tomassini v. Corr. Health Servs., 2012 WL 1601528, at *2 (D.P.R. May 7, 2012) (“The PLRA's administrative exhaustion requirement is a precondition to suit; therefore, whether it applies depends on the plaintiff's status at the time of filing the [] complaint.”); Rivera Rodríguez v. Pereira Castillo, 2005 WL 290160, at *5-6 (D.P.R. Jan. 31, 2005) (holding that action filed after juvenile was released from custody was not subject to PLRA exhaustion requirement). The motion for a more definite statement will therefore be denied.

         III. The Motions to Dismiss

         A. Standard of Review

         On a motion to dismiss, the Court “must assume the truth of all well-plead[ed] facts and give plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom.” Ruiz v. Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp., 496 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2007) (citing Rogan v. Menino, 175 F.3d 75, 77 (1st Cir. 1999)). To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must state a claim that is plausible on its face. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). That is, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, . . . on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. at 555 (citations omitted). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Dismissal is appropriate if the facts as alleged do not “possess enough heft to show that plaintiff is entitled to relief.” Ruiz Rivera v. Pfizer Pharm., LLC, 521 F.3d 76, 84 (1st Cir. 2008) (quotations and original alterations omitted).

         B. ...


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